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TravelThings To Do
Exploring Korea’s traditional markets
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승인 2011.02.24  17:20:27
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▲ Gwangjang Market, Noryangjin Market and Jagalchi Market. Photos by Gregory B. Curley

Editor’s note: This is the first in an occasional series of stories which highlight mainland Korea.

Steam billows from the endless line of food stalls that flow through Gwangjang Market. Referred to as meokjagolmok, the sprawling market eatery is the largest of its kind in Seoul. I’ll never tire of coming here – especially during the evening hours. It is the best place in the city to hunt down traditional seasonal fares.

There’s so much activity here. I see an ajumma stirring huge steel barrels of tteokbokki (rice cake and other ingredients cooked in a spicy sauce), while others grind mung bean for nokdu bindaetteok (mung bean pancake) – my food of choice. A little further down, sundae, or Korean blood sausage, is being cut up for hungry onlookers. There is never a dull moment. Every visit is a lesson in historical significance.

Another night brings me to Noryangjin Market – Seoul’s seafood nucleus. I see sellers flush water through the aisles to wash away the stench. Streams of visitors point out what they want, orders are called out and the food is prepared – expertly sliced, ready to be consumed in nearby restaurants.

The labyrinthine walkways of Gyeongdong Market leave me lost in time. There is scarcely a trace of the modern, materialistic façade of commerce that pulses only minutes away. Here, under the lit roof and the colorful parasols, life moves as it did hundreds of years ago. Proudly. Steadfastly.

With older parts of the city being pummeled down in favor of modern, commercially-driven pursuits, markets are crucial at getting in the heart of what the country is all about.

Canada-born Gregory B. Curley is a professional photographer based in Seoul. His work has appeared in The Korea Herald, SEOUL Magazine, Elle, MTV, 10 Magazine, Morning Calm, CNNGo and CNN. His you can find his work at hermithideaways.com and on twitter.com/gregorycurley.
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